Stamford High School varsity football coach Bryan Hocter has to deal with issues that most coaches in Fairfield County towns don't even have nightmares about. Hocter and other coaches have had players collapse in the showers after games because they did not eat all day. They have found out that kids entitled to reduced-price or free lunches are going hungry because their parents or guardians did not fill out the proper forms or because peers make fun of them. Every day, coaches discover heartbreaking stories of students' home lives.
"Kids have a lot of pride. They're a little embarrassed," Hocter says. "Especially guys who don't really like talking about their feelings. They just go into survival mode. A lot of times, unless we really press them, we don't know what's going on in their home life."
Hocter says it's frustrating to compete when he knows his team has such a disadvantage. The players' problems put the game in perspective.
"Every day we have to deal with issues other than football," Hocter says. "It's a humbling issue. We want to win just as much as anybody, but this is more than football."
Many of the players simply cannot afford to buy food, and that problem has worsened in Hocter's eight years as a coach. Now in his first year as head coach, he is telling anyone who will listen that his players need help.
"There is such a problem with our kids' lack of nutrition and hydration, and we've identified this as a problem," Hocter says. "This year we've really taken an aggressive approach to solve this issue, not only this year, but for years to come."
The Black Knights football program is accepting money and food donations as well as offers to mentor students. Monetary donations can be made payable to "SHS Gridiron" and mailed to 55 Strawberry Hill Ave., Stamford, CT 06902. For more information, call Coach Hocter at 203-977-6190.
Video shot and edited by Eric Gendron.
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